The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Health & Fitness

December 22, 2012

Medical Edge: Several conditions can increase risk of fatty liver disease

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Although no specific treatment exists, weight loss can improve and possibly even reverse fatty liver disease to some degree. Shedding excess pounds through diet and exercise or with the help of weight-loss (bariatric) surgery can prevent additional liver damage when inflammation and scarring is already present. However, any weight loss should be gradual — no more than a few pounds a week — because losing weight too quickly can actually worsen fatty liver disease.

Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and limiting the consumption of cholesterol and saturated fats also can help. Cutting out fast food may be particularly helpful, because research has found that the high level of cholesterol, saturated fat and fructose in fast food is associated with progressive inflammation and scarring in people with NAFLD and NASH.

A recent study of adults with NAFLD suggests that vigorous physical activity may also help reduce damage from fatty liver disease. Government guidelines advise that healthy adults get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate physical activity, such as walking, or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity, such as running on a treadmill. Increasing that time to 300 minutes of moderate physical activity or 150 minutes of vigorous physical activity each week can yield even greater benefits, such as weight loss. But if you don’t already exercise regularly, talk with your doctor first about the best way to start.

It’s also important that people with fatty liver disease avoid excessive alcohol and unnecessary use of medications, which can put stress on the liver. Carefully follow medication instructions and warnings. For instance, acetaminophen — a pain reliever found in many prescription and nonprescription drugs — can cause liver damage if more than the recommended amount is taken. The risk of liver injury primarily occurs when people exceed the current maximum dose of 4,000 mg within a 24-hour period.

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